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Advice from alumna to graduating master’s students: Be credible, be likable

Jun 01, 2018

Master’s Hooding Ceremony keynote speaker and alumna JoLee McLean had some learned wisdom she was eager to impart to her attentive audience of about 90 spring graduates.

“Your success will hinge on your ability to be credible and to be likable, and if you are, people will listen to you,” McLean said. “To be credible, come prepared, avoid entitlement, take on jobs no one wants to do. To be likable, don’t be interesting; be interested in others; release yourself from the pressure of being the smartest person in the room; and be self-aware and adjust accordingly in social situations. These guiding principles have worked for me and helped set me apart in my career.”

Indeed, since graduating from Florida State University’s College of Business 11 years ago with her Master of Business Administration (MBA), McLean has climbed to impressive heights – in more ways than one.

After leaving FSU, McLean began consulting at Protiviti and Deloitte, focusing on supply chain and transformational cost-reduction projects for powerhouse clients like JP Morgan, AIG, Ford and Estée Lauder. Her professional journey has taken her to the executive offices of luxury retailer Nordstrom, where today she is a senior manager in the company’s marketing group based in Seattle. She works with senior marketing leadership to optimize the company’s operational performance for multimedia campaigns and program content and to accelerate the process for getting messaging to market.

The MBA she earned from the College of Business has been key to her upward trajectory, said McLean, who grew up in a military family, moved five times and was homeschooled before attending the University of West Florida for her bachelor’s degree. She said pursuing graduate education at FSU was her “passport to a more secure and stable future.”

“FSU was such a helpful place because I could learn in a very safe environment with great professors who took time for me and gave me the opportunity to move forward,” she said. “They didn’t give me the answers, but instead helped provide the framework in which I could arrive at my own conclusions, which is helpful in the working world, and that ability has helped differentiate me.”

McLean made an impression on her professors, too.

“JoLee was an exceptional student who was very clearly going to have a highly productive career,” said Michael Hartline, dean of the college, who taught McLean’s course in marketing strategy. “To this day, she has a very creative mind and an eye for detail. It’s no wonder she has risen the corporate ranks so quickly.”

Beyond her professional role, McLean is passionate about furthering the anti-human trafficking movement and volunteers as fundraising lead for the Seattle chapter of International Justice Mission, an anti-slavery organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The issue came to the forefront for her during a church-sponsored mission trip to Cambodia in 2010.

She also is an outdoor enthusiast. She’s climbed several high-altitude mountains in the Himalayas, Andes and Caucasus mountain ranges. She has also climbed Mount Rainier four times with her husband, Greg, whom she met on an expedition in Bolivia. She has her sights set on ascending the Seven Summits – the tallest mountain on each continent – and using her efforts to raise awareness for International Justice Mission. She plans to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro in July 2019.

By Barbara Ash





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